Punjab is predominantly patriarchal and many people practise ancient gender norms, for instance - a man being the ‘head’ of the family and his wife being treated like an inferior in comparison to him. Sex education is treated as a taboo in the state with people finding it culturally acceptable only after one gets married. Premarital sex is treated as a sin and people only associate sex with procreating. Most people are not aware of or refuse to acknowledge the LGBTQ+ community. They feel like identifying as a homosexual is a disease and thus, most of the time people do not come out of the closet their entire life. Even transgenders are not treated well and are called insensitive slurs and thus, their career opportunities are reduced to dancing and singing at wedding ceremonies. We hear about increased rape stories, honour killings, workplace harassment cases, eve-teasing etc. on the news but we seldom hear about what is being done in order to reduce them. How can we get people to practise their sexuality in a healthy manner starting from a young age? The solution is making sex education mandatory for all school-going children between ages 13-18. Sex education is the need of the hour to sensitise and raise awareness among the youth.
In 2019, the Punjab and Haryana high court made it clear to the education secretary of Punjab that they will be personally liable to include sex education in a school’s curriculum but this move was opposed by many teachers and thus, it has not been implemented till now. In 2014, the ex-Union Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan wanted to ban sex education and make yoga compulsory in schools instead. In an interview with the New York Times, Vardhan said, “Condoms promise safe sex, but the safest sex is through faithfulness to one’s partner.” and after receiving a lot of criticism, he tweeted, “Media got it wrong again. I am against “so-called” sex education not sex education per se. Crudity, Vulgarity out, values in.” Righted-winged organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti even threatened to attack teachers and schools that dared to carry out the 2007 health education program. There was no mention of sex education in the New Education Policy (NEP) too.
The biggest barrier in the way of promoting sex education in India is the mindset of people which revokes them from developing and accepting changes and also, there is an added fear of becoming too westernised and swaying away from the traditional Indian values. Many people take the meaning of sex education literally, sex education does not teach people how to have sex but instead, it teaches gender sensitivity, mutual consent, different types of contraceptives, awareness regarding Sexually Transmitted Infections and Diseases (STIs and STDs), healthy sexual expression, sexual abuse, toxic relationships and much more.
Simran Bhalla, 19, a student of NIFT Delhi and a resident of Ludhiana, says,” Yes, Sex Ed is a must in every school, everywhere and since it is treated as a taboo here in India and no adult wants to talk about it to kids, in my opinion, it is one of the most necessary subjects that should be implemented in schools. We don’t leave big decisions to kids, right? We don’t let them explore the world by themselves-we teach them, guide them. Then why do we leave the young kids to explore all of the hormonal changes that they’re experiencing? And when teenagers are not guided properly during these years, they tend to learn from the wrong sources which is the reason why sex education should be a must in schools.
Author: Vanshika Jain